Sacu’s new course

Baitshepi Sekgweng
  • Industrialization tops Union’s priorities

Amidst the socio-economic challenges rampant around the world, Southern African Customs Union (SACU) has reiterated its efforts to refocus its Work Programme on Industrialization.

Through the programme, SACU has made it a priority to tap into sectors of agro processing, textile and clothing industries as the customs union strives to become an industrial and innovation hub for the African region.

Speaking at the 7th SACU Summit in Gaborone last Thursday, Executive Secretary, Paulina Elago revealed the refocused Work Programme is deliberately structured to take full advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The AfCFTA aims to boost intra-African trade by providing a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement among member states.

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“We have prioritized financing for industrialization, trade facilitation and logistics together with the implementation of the AfCFTA as key focus areas for the work programme. For industrialization, SACU seeks to deepen regional economic integration through the development of regional value chains. To guide this work, member states have adopted a vision for industrialization which seeks to build a diversified, competitive, sustainable and equitable industrial base that supports structural transformation and the economic integration of the SACU region,” declared Elago.

The move comes at a time when the world economy is facing the crippling aftereffects of Covid-19 and the current financial fallout from the on-going Ukraine-Russia war.

While economies were starting to show signs of recovery post the pandemic, the bloody conflict in Ukraine represents a hug dent to the chances of economic recovery.

The war not only threatens global economic growth prospects but food security with the continued increase in the cost of basic food commodities and fuel.

“The implementation of the AfCFTA is a major priority for SACU as it presents the best opportunity for the region to achieve its integration objectives at both the regional and continental levels. For SACU, the key is to position itself strategically to take full advantage of the export opportunities, diversify and broaden its industrial capacity to supply the African Continent and beyond,” added Elago.

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According to official data from SACU , the trade deficit for textiles and clothing sectors between the regional bloc and the world measured to US$8 Billion and US$3.3 billion in 2020 respectively.

Further, the cosmetics and essential oils sector amounted to R17.66 billion and R6.2 billion correspondingly.

When it comes to agro-processing, SACU region produced close to 3.6 million tonnes, which represents 1.1 percent of the world’s total annual meat production.

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On the other hand, leather and leather products amounted to R25.9 billion in imports in 2018 against exports valued at R11.9 billion therefore creating a trade deficit of R13.9 billion.

SACU was formed in 1910 with the main aim to enhance the economic development, diversification, industrialization and competitiveness of the five member states.

As of now SACU’s membership comprise of Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa.

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